Thousands gather to honor soldier killed in Afghanistan
More than 1,000 people crowded the Monticello LDS Stake Center on August 26 to honor the life of Staff Sgt Aaron Butler. Butler, a special forces Green Beret, was killed in action while fighting in Afghanistan on August 16, 2017.
The funeral and interment services culminated ten days of mourning to honor the service and sacrifice of Butler.
Funeral services were set to begin at noon on Saturday, August 26. The service was delayed because of the large number of mourners who stood in line to greet the family. Many of the mourners at the services were in full military dress uniform.
Butler’s sister, Shannon Young, delivered the eulogy. She shared a host of experiences where Butler had shown his passion for life and his pursuit of excellence.
Sgt Butler’s parents, Randy and Laura Butler, expressed their love and respect for their son. Also speaking were Aaron Butler’s fiancé, Alexandria Seagroves, in addition to all six of his brothers.
Gen. Raymond Thomas, the commanding general of United States Special Operations, spoke at the funeral. Gen. Thomas is one of eleven four-star generals in the United States military.
Also speaking at the services was Sgt Trevor Bell, a Green Beret who was on Butler’s special forces team. Bell was with Butler when Butler was killed and accompanied the body of the fallen soldier from Afghanistan to Dover Air Force Base in Dover, DE.
The body of Sgt Butler returned home to Monticello on Thursday, August 24. It would have been Butler’s 28th birthday.
The day started early with a private visit to the Butler home by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and General Jefferson Burton, commander of the Utah National Guard.
A private jet delivered the body, accompanied by Aaron’s cousin Travis Butler, to the Monticello Airport, where the military transferred the casket to the family.
A motorcade, accompanied by the Patriot Guard Riders, transported the body to the San Juan Mortuary in Blanding.
Thousands of San Juan County residents lined Highway 191 to pay their respects to the fallen soldier. They quietly stood at attention, with many holding flags or homemade posters.
It is estimated that more than 1,000 people lined the Main Street in Monticello. An additional 1,500 people lined the streets in Blanding.
After the funeral on August 26, the procession made its way to the cemetery. Many mourners walked from the stake center. The road to the cemetery was lined with hundreds of flags and crosses.
The cemetery services included pallbearers from the Special Forces, bag pipes, a 21-gun salute and a helicopter flyover.
Flags which had been draped on the casket were folded and presented to the family with the words, “This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army as a token of appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.”
After the services, gold star pins were presented to members of the Butler family.
The grave was dedicated by Aaron’s brother, Nathan Butler.